Capturing likeness and character in a pet portrait

“Ask the artist” time – a chance to get your questions answered

Many people receive their portraits and are just amazed at the fact that the portrait really looks like THEIR pet. It is not only the likeness. But the big surprise is still the fact that it captures the character too.

Hi Kathrin, I got it today and I’m just blown away! It’s so much like her and it even feels like her. I don’t know how you did it. I am just overwhelmed.

owner of Puss, a very independent rescue cat

So yes, the question of “HOW?” keeps coming up. Well, let me try and answer it.
It really is a question that is easy to answer but maybe not as easy to comprehend. The secret lies in a single fact: you fall … just a little bit … in love with your subject.
Sounds ridiculous? Bear with me and I’ll explain.


By the time I have painted or drawn your pet, I will have spent between 20 and 40 hours gazing at it. Studying every strand of fur, the angle of its ears, each visible skin fold and mostly the finest details in their eyes. It is my job as an artist to capture it as correctly as I possibly can. And while I do this, I feel like l really get to know your pets looks. You know how you can pick your pet out from a bunch of lookalikes without a second thought? It’s a little like that. But while I spend hours with their photos, you get to spend a lifetime with them.


Before I ever put my pencil to paper or dip my brush in the paint, I want to find out more about your pet.
Is it a bouncy puppy, always getting into mischief? Or a quiet cuddle monster looking for snuggle time?
Is kitty a royal lady, living life on her terms? Or a stealth hunter, loving the cover of darkness?
Or your pony? Is it a free spirit, happiest in the fields or a brave companion loving to be ridden and fussed about?
If you could only tell one story about your pet, what would it be? Tell me, please. This story (or stories) will decide nearly half of the portrait work. These stories are like webs, woven into the fabric of your portrait.
You might not think it’s important. But I promise you, it will have a huge impact. But I tell you more and just why this is, in more depth in another post.

Capturing likeness and character

When you combine the information of the looks and the stories of the character in a piece of art, each enhances the other and nearly paints the picture on its own.
When I study your pet in so much detail, likeness and character, I build a relationship with it, a connection. And this bond is like I mentioned at the very start of this post. I fall (just a little bit) in love with it. Every pet I paint or draw, every animal, every human portrait, the memories of them, and the process of creating it, will stay with me forever. Just like a little bit of me will stay in your pet portrait. And this is how likeness and character come together and ensure that it is your pet in your pet’s portrait.